Denver permits surge to record



  • Denver building permits surge in September.
  • Building permits set a record last month.
  • Surge in permits has caused delays in approvals.
Angela Merritt,who reviews plans for Denver Community Planning and Development, helps a client. The city issued a record number of building permits in September.

Angela Merritt,who reviews plans for Denver Community Planning and Development, helps a client. The city issued a record number of building permits in September.

Denver issued a record number of building permits in September, reflecting everything from a renovation boom to roof repairs from a hailstorm earlier in the year.

The city issued 9,250 building permits last month for things such as renovations, roofing, home building, mechanical work, plumbing and other construction work.

That is a 40.7 percent jump in the 6,587 permits issued in September 2014.

It also is a 12.9 percent gain from the previous record set in August 2004, when 8,194 permits were issued.

The city said three factors drove the record building permit activity last month:

  • A sustained high demand that goes back at least two years;
  • A normal seasonal surge in permit activity;
  • And a spike in demand for roofing permits following a June hailstorm.

“Much of the surge in permits was due to the June storms,” said Andrea Burns, spokeswoman for Denver Community Planning and Development.

“Roofers are the busiest guys and gals in town,” she added.

A strong economy, low interest rates and a growing population have contributed to sustained permit activity all year.

Denver is on pace to rival the record 67,800 permits issued in 2014, which was 23 percent higher than in 2013 and 63 percent higher than 2009, during the Great Recession.

Brad Buchanan, executive director of Denver Community Planning and Development, said increase in building permits being issued is the latest sign of citizens putting down roots during Denver’s robust economy.

“People want to live in Denver, stay in Denver and reinvest in their homes and businesses,” Buchanan said.

“This record is a sign of how much of that investment and reinvestment is happening all over the city and how hard our staff is working to keep pace with that demand,” Buchanan said.

However, the increased demand for building permits, combined with a new computer system installed last summer, has caused delays and frustration, according to a number of consumers, contractors and architects.

Last Saturday, one architect confided that his clients have experienced such long delays that he is tempted to hint to one client that she should do a small installation without getting the required building permit.

“I can’t tell her outright not get a permit, but I’m thinking of strongly hinting to her that she should just go ahead and do the work without getting a building permit,” he said.

He said he fears that if she seeks the permit, it will take 12 or more weeks to get a response from the city, which will be extremely costly for her.

Burns, however, said most people are not experiencing huge delays because of several steps Denver Community Planning and Development has taken to keep pace with the unprecedented demand for building permits.

“Since implementing a new permit system this summer, our service duration has normalized,” Burns said.

“However, some customers are still experiencing delays related to sheer volume,” Burns noted.

“We’ve taken several steps to address the demand including hiring more staff (including temporary staff), paying overtime, outsourcing some plan reviews, and making business process improvements,” Burns said.

“While we still have work to do, all of these steps have helped us make great progress toward providing better, faster services to our many customers,” Burns said.

City plan reviewers review permit applications — and inspectors assess the resulting projects in the field — to ensure all aspects of a project comply with building safety and zoning codes.

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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